First drives: Mazda CX-8

Is it a mini CX-9 or a maxi CX-5? That’s the question I was asking myself after my first experience with the all-new CX-8.

​In reality it's a little bit of both. It shares the longer wheelbase of the CX-9 and of course gets seven seats, but it shares a similar width to the CX-5, and also shares its diesel drivetrain.

Originally developed as a Japanese-only vehicle, a gap in the Australian Mazda range for a seven-seat diesel SUV saw Mazda Australia plead its case to head office, which gave the green light to bring it to Australia to fill the void in the seven-seat diesel SUV segment offered by competitors.

The 2.2L turbo diesel powertrain mated to Mazda's six-speed auto develops 140kW and a meaty 450Nm from 2000rpm. Plenty of work has been done on noise suppression from both the engine and road noise, with additional damping material used across the vehicle. The official combined consumption figure is 5.7L/100km for the FWD, with the AWD slightly higher at 6.0L/100km. As always, real-world will be higher than these numbers. Braked tow capacity is 2000kg, with the diesel engine more than capable of hauling that weight.

Space in the all-important third row is slightly less in terms of both leg space and width when compared to the CX-9, but it will still seat children comfortably. Larger teenagers and adults will find the confines a little tight for anything other than short trips. First and second row occupants are well catered for in legroom, although three adults across the second row is a little tight.

On the road it doesn't feel as resolved as either the CX-5 or 9, which might relate to its wheelbase and track proportions. A Japanese domestic suspension tune might also contribute to this. On a reasonable country drive it felt to have more body roll and less rear suspension control than either of the other two. It just felt softer than a usual Mazda ride.

Safety is well taken care of in both models with plenty of advanced driver assistance systems including low and high-speed AEB systems, with the low-speed system also mitigating reversing collisions, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, radar cruise control, blind spot monitoring, traffic sign recognition, high beam control, driver attention alert and intelligent speed assistance.

This speed assistance is a speed-limiting system that works in conjunction with the traffic sign recognition system to help stop drivers unintentionally exceeding speed limits. Asaki adds a 360-degree camera and adaptive LED headlights. ANCAP has awarded a 2018 five-star crash rating.

It appears to me there's a model missing from the range. The entry Sport FWD model has a drive-away price of a little over $46,700, the AWD Sport is just under $51,000, but then there's a $15,500 leap to the range-topping Asaki with nothing in the middle. Yes, the Asaki gets everything that you could ever think of, but I'm sure the Mazda dealers would have liked something in the mid-range and price.

Mazda has also joined a growing troupe of manufacturers to offer a five-year warranty to go with their capped-price servicing offer.

 - Darren Moody​

Photo credit: Thomas Wielecki